Narayana Murthy, a pioneer in the IT industry, recently said that youngsters in India should work 70 hours a week. This statement has led to many debates and discussions. In this podcast, Anjana PV talks to Dr Milu Maria Anto, Clinical psychologist, Assistant professor and Head of the Department of Psychology, Prajyoti Niketan College, Pudukad, about the consequences of working for 70 hours on an employee’s mental health.

Dr Milu begins by highlighting that the discussion of working 12 to 14 hours per day is a complex issue and cannot be evaluated based on the number of hours worked. She emphasises the importance of considering various factors such as physical health, mental health, cognitive abilities, socioeconomic status, workplace environment, and gender when discussing work hours. She mentions that European Commission guidelines suggest a 48-hour workweek, but each country has its own regulations.

The conversation delves into the impact of long working hours on mental and physical well-being. She points out that working such long hours can lead to anxiety, depression, reduced personal time, and decreased socialisation. Dr Milu also discusses how work stress and burnout can contribute to physical health issues and even suicide. Long hours can affect cognitive functions, attention, concentration, memory, and emotional well-being.

When asked about the ideal timing for work to achieve a proper work-life balance, she suggests that 5 to 6 hours per day would be ideal for employee well-being, considering an average of 40 hours per week. Dr Milu also mentions the importance of flexible work hours and schedules to accommodate individual preferences.

The discussion extends to who bears responsibility for achieving a better work-life balance. Dr Milu believes that both employers and employees share this responsibility. A balance should be struck through effective communication, flexible work environments, and mutual respect for personal space and self-worth. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, as different industries, geographical locations, and cultural contexts in India require varied approaches.

Regarding productivity, Dr Milu emphasises that quality of work and efficiency are more important than the quantity of hours worked. Each person has a unique way of performing, and recognising this individuality can enhance productivity. She advises that the focus should be on the quality of time spent working.

The podcast concludes by addressing how employers can foster better mental health for their employees. Dr Milu suggests that employers should create a supportive environment, led by example, communicate effectively, and reward performance. They should also recognise and utilise the strengths of each employee. Employees, on the other hand, should take care of themselves, respect their personal space, and maintain their self-esteem.

Listen: How working for 70 hours will affect your physical health

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